There is no more important bond than that of parents and their children — at least, this is a philosophy that a handful of countries subscribe to. In other countries, that important bond seems only to exist between mothers and children. And in others, the most crucial societal bond seems to exist between parents and their workplaces — children, the future of society, be damned. There are many ways to interpret the varying forms of parental leave around the world, of course. But however you look at it, they do at least offer a clear look into what any given country's government prioritizes.
If you've grown up in the United States, then you're probably at least aware that there's no federally mandated maternity leave plan that employers must follow. Put another way, new mothers in the United States are not guaranteed any time off after having a child, either paid or unpaid — although many companies do have their own maternity leave plans, and some states do as well. If you're from another country, this sounds like absolute madness. Although maternity and parental leave policies in different countries vary in terms of how much time parents can take, which parent can take how much time, and how much they'll be paid by their employers and by the state, the United States is the only OECD member country that doesn't offer any paid parental leave.
Zero weeks off for either parent, zero money guaranteed from employers or the state. If you talk to someone from, for example, Estonia, where the government mandates 87 paid weeks off, a policy like the one in the U.S. sounds downright callous. Those zeros in the OECD report may be jarring, but you don't have to just look at statistics to get a sense of its effects. When you talk to mothers who have been through it, their experiences really bring those numbers off the page.